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Tropical Reroofing

Virgin Islands shopping center replaces rubber roof with standing seam metal

Four Winds Nov18 7 Low Rez
Photos by Sean Smith, Joseph Allen, Alex Dincser

Saint Thomas is a 32-square-mile island in the Virgin Islands, an unincorporated territory of the United States. Anna’s Retreat is a Saint Thomas town and home to the Four Winds Plaza, a shopping center containing numerous stores frequented by locals.

In September 2017, Saint Thomas took a direct hit from back-to-back Category 5 Hurricanes Irma and Maria that destroyed homes, entire buildings and many roofs across the Virgin Islands including the Four Winds Plaza’s roof. To remedy, a reroofing project scheduled for three phases on the plaza replaced an existing rubber membrane roof system (that was in need of serious repairs and was installed in 1996 following Hurricane Marilyn) with a standing seam metal roof.

A Hurricane-Battered Island

Owner Four Winds Plaza Corp. has built and operated over 1,000,000 square feet of buildings, most of which have standing seam metal roofs that have yielded successful results. Thomas Phoenix International (TPI), Eastampton, N.J., was the metal roof installer. “Four RVs were sent down in shipping containers to house our employees, and all tools and materials were shipped in Conex boxes containing large metal skids,” says Joseph Allen, supervisor, safety and training manager, TPI. “TPI began slope build ups in late November 2017 and the project was finished in the summer 2018. TPI has built a number of these projects for West Essex Management, Wharton, N.J., the general contractor for the project, hence their confidence that we could manage the complexity of the installation.”

Working on an island always presents problems in terms of tools, equipment and material availability, and these problems are always amplified by a hurricane situation. But, according to Patrick Turzi at West Essex Management, installing the metal roof on a tropical island without power was not as difficult as it could have been. Again, prior to the hurricane making landfall on Saint Thomas, Four Winds had reserved bookings for three shipping containers to the island and purchased 12 generators that would run on multiple fuels. This extensive planning was necessary to keep the project moving forward, since most stores were not yet open, and getting additional materials and tools was a difficult challenge.

“During the entire project we had always shipped more than what was thought to be required and more than what would typically be sent to a job,” Turzi says. “Cords, wire and associated electrical components to power the temporary living quarters and tools had arrived on the island shortly after the hurricane passed. The only specific challenge was keeping all of the equipment fueled.” Propane and gas generators were a part of everyday life on the reroofing project.

In terms of labor, following a hurricane and during rebuilding efforts, it is difficult to secure crews as most are working on priority project repairs such as the airport and government facilities. Power and infrastructure are also immediate priorities. “However, our goal was to utilize local labor as it became available along with crews brought it from the mainland,” Turzi says.

“Local workers were trained to operate aerial lifts and assist the TPI crews with the effort,” Allen adds. “Extensive field-forming of panels and trims, as well as field-engineering weathertight solutions were necessary due to the difficulty of procuring supplies and material in any sort of timely fashion.”

From Rubber to Metal

According to Rodger Russ, North American sales manager of roof systems at Butler Manufacturing, Kansas City, Mo., Butler Manufacturing suppliedthe entire reroof package, including a new MR-24 roof, slope build-up structurals, perimeter trims and transitions, gutter, downspouts and vertical wall panels to close off any gable or high gaps created by the slope build-up.

The slope build-up necessary to install this roofing was completed by attaching 5-inch zee purlins to the existing bar joists using long Tek-5 screws. Also, 16-gauge vertical cee posts were installed to support 3-inch zee purlins at a 0.25/12 pitch. The Butlerib II wall panels by Butler closed off the sidewalls and the new high eave.

Also, “There were two smaller units, steeper slope, that were reroofed with Butler's Butlerib II exposed fastener panel,” Russ says. “[It’s a] similar scope, but using spanning members as sub-purlins to attach the new roof over the existing corrugated exposed fastener panels.”

Butler Manufacturing has had a long-term relationship with the project’s ownership supplying metal buildings and reroof materials for many of its projects for many years. “Common thread through all these projects was the use of Butler's MR-24 roof where possible; ownership is a big believer in the long-term value of this product and has specified it consistently for the past 20 years or more,” Russ says.

Turzi says with the new metal roofing system, Four Winds Plaza can use all of the roof water drainage to fill its 500,000-gallon underground cistern, which is used for the shopping centers fire pump. Also, “As Saint Thomas is a mountainous island, this roof is also visible from the nearby Tutu Shopping Mall, and the clean lines of a new standing seam roof are most definitely more aesthetically pleasing than the old rubber membrane,” Allen adds. There was no architect on this reroofing project. “[The owner’s] in-house Butler Builder entity acted as the design-builder,” Russ says.

“Butler's specialty engineering group provided prescriptive design for the local Saint Thomas’ 168-mph wind speed. Butler's Roof Group provided detailed installation schematics for the field work along with electronic parts ordering for the individual eight roof surfaces that made up the entire Four Winds Plaza reroof project.” Awards judge Lewis McNeel, AIA, associate, Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio, says he felt the metal reroofing made the environment better and that it cleaned up the building. “It looks like a challenging historical context with a lot of weather isues,” he adds. “It happened in an urban context that needed simple, humble projects to happen.”